SF’s Serial Guest Stars

The Top 10 telefantasy actors we love to see putting in a special appearance, by our special guest star Jayne Nelson

Some actors can’t seem to get enough of sci-fi TV, and even if they’ve never landed themselves a regular gig on a show, their faces become so familiar, they almost feel like honorary members of the sci-fi family. Here we celebrate those serial science fiction guest stars who can raise the standard of an episode just by putting in an appearance.

NOTE: You may notice there aren’t as many women as there are men on this list. We tried. We looked everywhere. We found a few potentials – Emanuelle Vaugier, Teryl Rothery, Lucy Lawless, Christina Cox – but weren’t sure they justified full entries due to quantity or quality of guest-star roles (and including them for the sake of it would be positive discrimination and we don’t want to open that can of worms). Did we miss anybody obvious? Or is this just a sad reflection of the way the acting industry works: men are able to build up careers as character actors, but women, who are sadly often judged by their looks more than their abilities, come and go? Tell us what you think in the comments…

First up…

Bubbling under

Those that didn’t quite make it into the Top 10, but who deserve a mention for their services to telefantasy…

Tony Todd

The booming-voiced Candyman’s TV guest spots include The Event, Chuck, Masters Of Horror, Stargate SG-1, Charmed, Andromeda, Smallville, Angel, Babylon 5, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek Voyager, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Xena, Warrior Princess. So he certainly has quantity on his side, but be honest – how many of those roles can you actually recall? He mainly gets cast in parts in which require being either tall or growly, or both. Which doesn’t exactly stretch him much. He was fun in Chuck, though…

Brian Thompson

Best known as The X-Files’ alien bounty hunter, Thompson’s small screen sci-fi CV also includes Alien Nation, Superboy, Hercules The Legendary Journeys, Kindred The Embraced, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Seven Days, Crusade, Birds Of Prey, Charmed, Star Trek: Enterprise and Chuck. Doesn’t make the Top 10 because although it’s always great spotting him in a show, he doesn’t usually do much other than glower and grunt.

James Marsters

Yeah, yeah, we know he wasn’t a guest star on Buffy and Angel, but since then he’s embraced the guest star gavotte with gusto: Smallville, Caprica, Torchwood.

Steve Railsback

First hit the SFX radar as alien abductee Duane Barry in two episodes of The X-Files, and has since made memorable guest appearances in Charmed and Supernatural among others.

Steven McHattie

If you’ve never seen Canadian zombie flick Pontypool you really need to. McHattie is brilliant as a shock jock in that, but it’s a movie, so it doesn’t really count here. On TV he’s graced such shows as Haven, The Listener, Reaper, The 4400, Mutant X and Star Trek: Enterprise with his not inconsiderable presence.

Emanuelle Vaugier

You might not know the name but chances are you’ll have seen her in Lost Girl (where she was clearly having a whale of a time playing the Morrigan), or Supernatural, or Masters Of Horror, or Painkiller Jane, or Andromeda, or Smallville (Dr Helen Bryce), or Charmed, or The Outer Limits, or Seven Days, or First Wave, or Highlander. Things made in Canada, usually.

Terry O’Quinn

Sure we know him better now as Locke from Lost, but before that he was earning his stripes on the guest star circuit: Alias, Masters Of Science Fiction, The X-Files, Earth II, Tales From The Crypt, Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Twilight Zone.

Teryl Rothery

Stargate SG-1’s petite medic didn’t turn her back on small screen sci-fi after the producers killed off Janet Fraiser. You may have seen her since in Supernatural, Kyle XY, Smallville or Caprica.

Tony Amendola

Simply a great, great character actor, Amendola appears in so much telefantsy simply by dint of the fact he makes so many film and TV appearances. By law of averages, some have to be telefantasy: She-Wolf Of London, Space Rangers, Raven, Space: Above And Beyond, Kindred: Te Embraced, Lois And Clark, Poltergeist: The Legacy, Crusade, Star Trek: Voyager, The X-Files, Angel, Charmed, Alias, Stargate SG-1, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

Lucy Lawless

She’s never quite rediscovered that Xena high, but we still get a thrill seeing her in things like The X-Files, Battlestar Galactica, Spartacus Blood And Sand and No Ordinary Family (she also had a cameo as a punk in Spider-Man 2, dontchaknow?)

Vaughn Armstrong

A special mention for a man who has appeared as 12 different characters across every Trek show except the original. He’s also cropped up in Babylon 5 and Quantum Leap.

David Collings

Serial sci-fi guest stars are thinner on the ground in the UK, mainly because we produce fewer sci-fi shows, but if any Brit thesps can stake a claim in this list it’s Collings who managed to complete the Doctor Who/Blake’s Seven/Sapphire And Steel hat trick. He was Silver in Sapphire And Steel, if that jogs your memory.

Alex Price

He’s still young, so he hasn’t built up much of a sci-fi CV yet, but he’s going great guns already having clocked up memorable appearances in Being Human, Doctor Who and Merlin in the past couple of years.

Terry Walsh

Another honorary mention for one of classic Who’s stunt guys (he often doubled for Jon Pertwee) who’d occasionally find himself getting a bona fide bit part, usually as a guard, often in the background, with maybe one or two lines at his artistic peak.

Now on with the Top 10…